They Came First For Helen Thomas
Joan Vennochi’s Boston Globe column, “Will Beck and Limbaugh be next?” perfectly resonates with me as someone who talks for a living, and is always a slip-of-the-tongue away from a career-ending gaffe. Pastor Martin Niemoeller, a German former U-boat commander who was put on trial and convicted when he began to speak out against Hitler from the pulpit has the famous quote, although debated as to origin and exact wording, that resonates as well with anyone who cherishes the right to speak out.
“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
Venonochi rightfully asks who, after Helen Thomas, will be next?
The statements Thomas made — that the Jews of Israel should go back to Poland and Germany — were rightly denounced. Still, there was something perverse about the delight in her demise that was taken, especially by conservative commentators.
[From those whose] “acts are routinely denounced as outrageous, sometimes racist and occasionally anti-Semitic…there was scant recognition of the underlying free speech issue that could threaten their own livelihoods.”
Thomas may have stayed past her prime; her comments were certainly outrageous and offensive. But rather than debating Israel’s wrongdoing, the debate shifted to Helen Thomas’s wrongdoing, and she became a symbol of what conservatives hate about the so-called “liberal media”, even though she was as much a pain-in-the keister to Obama as she was to Bush. I take no delight in the forced retirement of Helen Thomas. Any one of us can be next.Click here for reuse options!
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